Forecast for September 9, 2019

Recess is over, class is back in session. Let’s get caught up.

CONGRESS IN BRIEF

• Lawmakers have 3 weeks until the start of FY 2020, and both chambers must pass 12 spending bills by October 1. House Majority Leader Hoyer says the House will vote on short-term spending agreements (CRs) next week to keep the lights on. Expect the usual squeeze play at the end, probably around Thanksgiving.

• It’s likely the Senate has similar plans, and the chamber has started scheduling markups for 2020 spending bills. Defense and Labor subcommittee markups are Tuesday, the State subcommittee markup is Wednesday, and full committee markups of Defense, Energy, Labor, and State are happening Thursday.

• On Thursday, Senators are also having a full committee vote on 302(b) allocations. This is a big deal— at least, we think so. These numbers have significant consequences for a capable Congress, and leg branch keeps getting the axe.

• Speaking of spending, DoD is spending unallocated $$ on a border wall and Democratic Senators are not happy about it. The Senators say the project ignores congressional intent and have asked DoD why the project is circumventing standard funding channels. Dems have said they will not “backfill” funds for projects that will be delayed to fund the wall. Will Congress stand up for its prerogatives?

• House Judiciary Committee reportedly has indicated it may make its inquiry into impeachment a little more real. On Wednesday it is expected to vote on a resolution — which is not yet publicly available and is not expected until Monday at the earliest — laying out procedures on the Trump investigation. (The meeting is not yet noticed on the website.) Among its (reported) provisions: authorizing committee staff counsels to question witnesses; provide for how secret grand jury information can be reviewed in closed-door sessions; and permitting the President’s counsel to respond in writing to the committee.

CORRUPTION CORNER

Democrats who want a seat at the table need to pay up: The Intercept published the actual dues that House Democrats are required to pay to the DCCC. Here is the document explaining their points system; and if they fix the permissions, here’s how much people actually have paid in (in the meantime, see my tweet). Note that corporate $$ will get you lots of points, but not grassroots dollars.

The Office of Congressional Ethics found “substantial reason to believe” (last year) that Rep. David Schwikert used official resources (aka time and congressional staff) for campaign activities, according to a report now released by the House Ethics Committee. OCE referred the case, which also involves concerns that Schweikert accepted campaign gifts from congressional employees, to the House Ethics committee. House Ethics is legally obligated to release OCE reports if the panel hasn’t concluded its review within a year of referral — it hasn’t.

In on-brand-content news, Devin Nunes is suing an ethics watchdog group for filing ethics complaints about Nunes. Meanwhile, Nunes dropped his lawsuit against constituents for calling him a “fake farmer.” Is this a Jack Donaghy joke?

House Judiciary is investigating whether Trump promised pardons to employees who are, potentially illegally, advancing border wall construction. Hmm.

Corruption charges against Aaron Schock have been dropped; the former Republican Congressman struck a deal with prosecutors earlier this year. House Ethics’s investigation of Schock per OCE’s referral stopped when Schock resigned.

WHO’S ON THE HILL?

Congress has a diversity problemMembers’ diversity may be on the rise but senior staff are disproportionately white; only 13.7% of top House staff are people of color. A subcommittee of the APSA Task Force Project on Congressional Reform has suggestions of how Congress can get its ranks to reflect the constituency it represents. Highlights include collecting machine readable demographic and pay data, regular outreach to HBCUs, and modernizing job listings.

3 more lawmakers announced plans to retireCalifornia Democrat Susan Davislongtime Republican Rep. Sensenbrenner, and Rep. Bill Flores (R) have been added to the House press gallery’s “casualty list.” Last election cycle, 26 Republicans and 8 Democrats left Congress.

The Washington Post noted that 22% of Texas Republicans are leaving.

We should see less of each other: Legistorm reports that members of Congress held fewer town halls this year than in prior non-election-year recesses. There were 512 in-person town halls this recess, compared to 727 in 2015.

ON YOUR RADAR

Are Senate rules restraints or tools? James Wallner says “both.”

The first bicameral bipartisan Cyber Day on the Hill brought together tech experts from cyber security firms, major companies like Google and Facebook, as well as public interest groups and the House of Representatives to teach attendees best practices for keeping their office and personal data safe. The one piece of advice that came up in the off-the-record event? We’re not telling.

Get to know one of the First Branch Forecast authors in the Fulcrum.

More than 40 delegates from 16 countries came to DC in July to discuss world-wide threats to democracy like rising authoritarianism, anti-democratic propaganda, and political polarization at the first ever House Democracy Partnership (HDP) Leadership Forum.

Live out your journalist/researcher dreams by helping MuckRock sort through 90 annual FOIA reports.

CALENDAR

Lawmakers are back, here are this week’s hearings to watch out for:

• The Committee on House Administration will have an oversight hearing examining the renovations of the Cannon building at 10 in Longworth 1310. Stream here.

• House Appropriations CJS subcommittee will have an oversight hearing for DOJ’s Community Relations Service at 10 in the Capitol room H-309

• R Street will host an update on the House Modernization Committee on Tuesday.

Down the line:

• Happy (early) birthday to the Constitution! Celebrate with the Library of Congress at their event “The State of the Constitution” on Tuesday September 17 at 5:30 in the Mumford Room of the Library’s Madison Building.

• Monday September 23, the Bipartisan Policy Center in partnership with the National Conference of State Legislatures will host an event looking at what the Fix Congress committee can learn from state legislatures.